#40 West Virginia Football 2015 Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers

Overall Rank: #40
#7 Big 12

West Virginia Team Page#40 West Virginia Football 2015 PreviewBuy West Virginia Football Tickets

West Virginia recovered from a tough 4-8 campaign in the 2013 season to grind out a 7-6 record last season, including an upset win over high-flying Baylor. Coach Dana Holgorsen heads into his fifth season with a bit of pressure to continue to push the Mountaineers forward in a very difficult Big 12 conference. The recruiting has picked up in Morgantown and West Virginia is looking the part of a Big 12 team. Now the results need to show on the field with an eight to nine win season.

2014 Record: 7-6, 5-4
2014 Bowl: Liberty Bowl vs. Texas A&M (L 37-45)
Coach: Dana Holgorsen 28-23 at West Virginia, 28-23 overall
Offensive Coordinator: Dana Holgorsen
Defensive Coordinator: Tony Gibson

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Rushel Shell, RB, 788 yards
Passing: Skyler Howard, QB, 829 yards
Receiving: Jordan Thompson, WR, 598 yards
Tackles: Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, 103
Sacks: Noble Nwachukwu, DE, 2
Interceptions: Two with three each

Other Key Returnees: K Josh Lambert, LB Jared Barber, S K.J. Dillon, CB Daryl Worley, BS Karl Joseph, P Nick O’Toole, LG Adam Pankey, C Tyler Orlosky

Key Losses: WR Kevin White, WR Mario Alford, OG Mark Glowinski, LB Brandon Golson, LB/S Wes Tonkery

Defense is going to have to be the calling card for West Virginia this season as they lost too much talent along the outside at wide receiver. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson made a positive impact last year in first season running the Mountaineer defense since they were much improved from the 2013 season. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski is going to be the leader of the West Virginia and he is on the Lombardi Award watch list heading into the start of the 2015 season. Kwiatkoski just simply has a nose for the football, tallying 103 tackles and he should be able to make the move back over to strongside linebacker this year without any trouble. Jared Barber is back from injury and will be a huge addition to the linebacker corps. Back in 2013 Barber led the team in tackles after ten games. The running game will be a strength offensively with both Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood back to form a 1-2 punch that will take the pressure off of Skyler Howard at quarterback. Josh Lambert will be a preseason favorite for the Lou Groza Award after making 30 field goals, including an outstanding 4 of 5 from outside of 50 yards.

Senior Jordan Thompson will have big shoes to fill at wide receiver as you don’t easily replace outstanding playmakers like Kevin White or Mario Alford. Turnovers are another thing that has to be fixed. West Virginia was -15 in turnover margin, which makes it a minor miracle that they won seven games in 2014. Skyler Howard is going to have to be efficient in the passing game in order for the Mountaineers to improve. The pass rush is another glaring weakness. West Virginia returns less than half of their sack production from a year ago, which is a recipe for potential disaster in the Big 12.

The Bottom Line:
The schedule should set up for a quick start as the Mountaineers should be 3-0 heading into a rough four game stretch that has three of four Big 12 games on the road. A trip to Norman to play Oklahoma awaits on October 3rd to start this run that includes additional road trips to TCU and Baylor. A great goal for West Virginia will be a 5-2 record heading into November, when the schedule becomes more manageable with home games against the likes of Texas Tech, Texas and Iowa State. If the defense makes progress as expected, the Mountaineers will be competitive in almost every game on their schedule. The key is going to be Skyler Howard’s growth at quarterback and whether or not Dana Holgorsen can stay committed enough to the run game early to allow the offense time to grow. Look for another seven or eight win season in Morgantown with a very bright future ahead for 2016 and beyond.

Projected Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 182.8 (43rd in nation, 4th in Conference)
Passing Offense: 317.0 (9, 4)
Total Offense: 499.8 (12, 4)
Scoring Offense: 33.5 (34, 5)
Rushing Defense: 168.2 (63, 7)
Pass Defense: 231.2 (71, 3)
Total Defense: 399.4 (66, 6)
Scoring Defense: 27.6 (72, 6)
Turnover Margin: -1.15 (119, 10)
Sacks: 1.54 (99, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.38 (85, 6)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#40 Karl Joseph

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#177 Jovon Durante
#198 Tyrek Cole


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